Half Formed Thoughts: The Elasticity of Time

We perceive time as fixed and unyielding. One minute always equals sixty seconds. For those who are gainfully employed (not me), or have children your life is run by the clock. Start work at nine, meeting at 10:30, lunch at 12:30, pick the kids up at 3:30, you get the idea. There’s no way out of this. Time has marched on this way since the big bang. Tick, toc, tick. Its something imposed upon us.

There is a way out. For anyone who’s ever crashed, or taken a long distance plunge knows that time can almost stand still, at least the way we perceive the passage of time. Suddenly sixty seconds doesn’t equal one minute. This fixed, unyielding thing suddenly becomes elastic. Seconds last for minutes. In those moments we experience time as something different.

That moment of elasticity is something one of the things I love about sport. It’s at its most accessible when we become the activity we’re doing. This happens on my rides, when I look down and realize that the gel I had twenty minutes ago was actually an hour ago. Sometimes it goes the other way. My stomach growls, but when I look down that gel happened only fifteen minutes prior. I remember it happening like one recalls a distant memory from childhood.

While out, a four hour solo romp through the West hills doesn’t feel like a four ride until that last miles before returning home when my quads beg for the torture to end. When I raced the Vanport Kermesse, sixty minutes felt like two hours of hell, yet it was only half that.

These are half formed thoughts, so I’ll leave you with a much elegant version of the same thing. From Bill Strickland’s difficult, but still excellent Ten Points.

“No more squirrelly than that sprint of mine.”
“Which one?”

“The one that just happened” I said. “I could barely see, but I ended up getting two points.”

She looked hard at me, squinting. Frowning.

“What ?” I said. “I scored, right?”

“That was like seven laps ago,” she said.

I concentrated on my breathing. I concentrated on not looking for a memory of the last seven laps.


I stood on the pedals and swung out beside the pack and sprinted to the front, where I slotted in next to a guy called Pickle. That was a fast nickname.

“You ever black out during a race?” I asked

“You ever not black out?” he asked, as he attacked up the side, and I followed him…


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